“I LIKE YOU BETTER IN ITALY”: How this Couple Transitioned From the Golden State to the Tuscan Sun—and Why!

In a quick exchange of words between zoom calls and the North American rat-race, Rob and Kim's journey took a profound turn. As Rob curiously questioned Kim's gaze, her heartfelt response, "I like you better in Italy," ignited a candid conversation that would shake-up and redefine their family’s lifestyle, priorities and aspirations.
March, 2024

In the heart of Brooklyn, amidst the echoes of Italian heritage, Rob Murgatroyd’s upbringing bore the unmistakable imprint of his Neapolitan roots. Generations of his family had journeyed from Naples to New York, carrying with them a tapestry of traditions that painted his childhood with the hues of Sunday Ragù, the melodies of the Neapolitan language, and a profound affection for the land of his ancestors.

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, Kim’s love affair with Italy blossomed under the Tuscan sun. From her first encounter with Florence in the 90s, a sense of déjà vu whispered through the cobblestone streets, weaving a destiny that beckoned her to call Italy home. A mere 16 years old, she harbored a dream that would one day lead her to the banks of the Arno.

Fate intertwined their paths in Atlanta, Georgia in 2003, where Rob and Kim’s shared passion for Italy ignited a flame that would illuminate their future. Their inaugural voyage to Florence kindled a mutual adoration for Tuscany, culminating in a romantic proposal amidst the cliffs of Positano in 2005 and a joyous union at Positano Town Hall a year later. Together, they forged a pact to one day retire in the land that had captured their hearts.

As the years unfolded, Italy’s siren song continued to lure them back, beckoning them to delve deeper into its cultural tapestry. In 2018, faced with the crossroads of a new beginning, Rob and Kim sold their medical practice with the intention of settling in sunny Southern California. However, spurred by a desire to immerse themselves in the Italian way of life, they embarked on an extended sojourn across Europe, using it as a litmus test to gauge their readiness to embrace Italy as their permanent abode.

Amidst this trial period, Rob found himself torn between the allure of California’s shores and the magnetic pull of Italy’s timeless beauty. Despite their yearning to stay, logistical constraints forced them to bid arrivederci to Italy temporarily and set their sights on the golden state, all the while nurturing the dream of a future retirement under the Mediterranean sun.

And as their story unfurled in the golden glow of California, Rob’s heart began to yearn for the unfinished chapter that awaited him in the land where past and present entwine in a dance as old as time itself.

As their Californian chapter unfolded, the shimmering allure of the West Coast clashed with the lingering echoes of Italy that resonated in Rob’s soul. Caught in the dichotomy of chasing the American Dream and embracing the Italian idyll, Rob found himself ensnared in the relentless pursuit of material success. The pressure to “keep up with the Joneses” weighed heavily on his shoulders, driving him to incessantly elevate their lifestyle with each passing day.

Amidst the whirlwind of obligations and the ceaseless race towards an elusive ideal, Rob found himself teetering on the brink of overwhelm. In a moment of fleeting respite between back-to-back Zoom meetings, he hurriedly entered the kitchen, his mind consumed by the demands of a life lived in the fast lane. Kim’s silent gaze bore a weight of unspoken truths, prompting Rob to question her silent scrutiny.

“Why are you looking at me like that?” Rob inquired, breaking the pregnant silence that enveloped them. Kim’s response, delivered with a softness that belied its gravity, reverberated through the room like a clarion call to their shared past. “I like you better in Italy,” she uttered, setting in motion a poignant conversation that laid bare the stark contrast between the life they were living and the life they truly desired.

In that pivotal moment, amidst the chaos of modernity and the relentless pursuit of external validation, Rob and Kim confronted the essence of their existence. Their exchange became a crucible of introspection, a catalyst for a profound reevaluation of their values and aspirations. It marked the genesis of a journey towards authenticity, a quest to redefine their path and sculpt a future molded by the whispers of their hearts.

The Question that Activated Italy Within

With those seemingly innocuous words, a dialogue unfolded, unraveling the threads of their past and illuminating the path to their future. It was a moment of clarity, a realization that their hearts truly belonged to the enchanting landscapes and vibrant culture of Italy. Yet, Rob was conflicted. In his mind, both beach life and Italian life were a 10/10. He asked his friend for guidance. Instead of giving him advice, he asked Rob a question: If you had two years left to live, where would it be?”.

Something came alive in Rob. His answer was instant.  The answer was, Italy.

As they reflected on how their lives had evolved and the yearnings buried deep within their souls, Rob and Kim embarked on a journey of introspection and rediscovery. Together, they explored the depths of their desires, pondered the meaning of true happiness, and envisioned a life steeped in the romance and magic of Italy.

This pivotal moment marked the beginning of a profound transformation, a reimagining of their life’s trajectory guided by passion, connection, and a shared dream of embracing the beauty and authenticity of Italy.

Q&A with Rob & Kim

Why was vacationing in Italy not enough for you?

Vacations give you a taste of the Italian lifestyle, but living it every single day changes you, changes your kids, changes how you view the world, changes your priorities and even changes your health.

What factors were crucial in shaping your decision to potentially relocate and raise your family in Italy?

We believe that gaining crystal clarity on what you want your day-to-day life to look like is important in making this decision.  For our family, we wanted to raise our daughter in a supportive and safe environment for children. Of course, great food that held to a higher standard was important. But mostly, we wanted her to be raised with a global perspective, and inspired by thousands of years of rich history, art and innovation. We also love to travel, and given Italy’s perfect placement and major airports, within two-five hours, we can easily travel within just all of Europe, the UK, northern Africa and the Middle East.

How does one go about getting citizenship (when the consulate is little to no help)?

To live in Italy, most countries outside the EU need a long-term stay Visa. You can apply for multiple types of Visas ranging from a Student Visa to an Electoral Residency Visa and of course the many options of work Visas. There is a standard list of requirements, however each consulate tends to have their own process and additional requirements. The first step is to understand which Visa is right for you (and your family). Then, to make sure you follow the process, collecting all the documents and meeting all of the requirements such as finding a place to live, getting global healthcare coverage etc… Then, you will have to make an appointment in the Italian Consulate that is assigned to your region and follow their process.

Another option is Citizenship, this however is different from obtaining a Visa, and not necessary to live in Italy. The most common way to gain Citizenship if you are not living in Italy, is through jure sanguinis (citizenship by descent). This is a more complicated process that I would highly recommend using a qualified attorney in Italy to help speed your process. We personally recommend and use Avv. Michele Capecchi.

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How expensive is life in Italy?

I think that the cost of living greatly depends on many factors, including where and how you choose to live in Italy, as, for example, Florence real estate is getting quite expensive as inventory is limited, so living in a smaller town will definitely be less expensive. Also, I think it depends where you are comparing Italy to. For example, we moved from Los Angeles. Personally, we find the cost of medical care, veterinary care, restaurants and groceries substantially less than what we previously paid. 

What are the forces that stop people from pursuing their dream of moving to Italy?

I think the fear of the unknown plays a huge role in holding people back. For us, even though we did a trial run, and were fairly certain we’d be happy, we still had reservations about moving. However, we reminded ourselves that “our next step” doesn’t have to be “our forever”. Nothing has to be permanent, and we could always move back to the USA or somewhere else if we really wanted to. However, I’m happy to say, we are happier than we could’ve ever imagined.

Additionally, I think the process seems so overwhelming, it is complicated, from the visa to taxes to how to actually relocate, and how to bring your family pets. The overwhelm makes them freeze. This is exactly why we put together a course with an expert immigration attorney, Avv. Michele Capecchi to help guide people through the process legally, logistically and with a lifestyle component to help you adjust to your new life!

How can you decide what city, region or place in Italy is the right one for you?

There’s a huge difference between vacationing to Italy and living in Italy. We recommend that before making a permanent move, people should use the tourist visa to do a 3-month “trial” living in Italy. They should rent an apartment in one or two areas they’d like to “test” living in. We did this in 2019 in Florence. We even put our youngest daughter in a private kindergarten program for the duration of our stay. Not only will it help you realize if you want to live in Italy, but you will learn the neighborhoods of your potential city and be able to create connections with the contacts you’ll need when you move, such as real estate agents.

What advice would you offer to individuals considering a move to Italy in order to help them align their expectations with the practical realities of daily life, particularly in terms of location, access to essential services, transportation requirements, and lifestyle preferences?

I think often people have an idea of what living in Italy could be like, and often don’t consider the reality, or assume the reality. For example, many people have a dream of a villa in Tuscany, but don’t often realize that many villas are far removed from larger cities, shopping centers, hospitals, doctors offices etc.. Also, living in a villa requires a car, which for a long-term expat will require taking and passing the Italian drivers exam (which is currently only given in Italian, with the possibility of German or French). Instead, we recommend to our community that they think about their needs for medical providers, education, proximity to a city and even lifestyle choices like their desire to travel to other locations. If you’re a frequent traveler, you may not want to be two-hours from the nearest train station or airport.

From the top of your head, what advice can you give about adjusting to the Italian lifestyle?

The #1 advice we have for adjusting to the lifestyle is “don’t ask why”. From the famous  bureaucratic red-tape to having to take a deli-number to check out at your local hardware store… just don’t ask why. If you constantly walk around, thinking how this or that could be streamlined, improved or be made more efficient – you’ll go crazy. Often the flip-side of the coin of things that drive you crazy, are why you want to live here in the first place. For example, we truly value how the Italians live their life, not prioritizing work, but prioritizing family, friends, food and LIFE. Yet, when we go to my local butcher, and he’s closed for 2-3 hours mid-day, it can be frustrating. But when we think that the butcher went home to get a great meal, see his family and take a nap – we realize that IS the lifestyle we envy.

Do you believe Italy has a future?

Of course! Italy has been through the feast and famine, war and peace, they’ve gone from one extreme to the other. Italians are beautiful, complex, thoughtful and resilient people who (we believe) truly know the meaning of LIFE.

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